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Muscle Soreness Body Fatigue Exercise Recovery Is Important & Shouldn’t Be Overlooked

I recently embarked on what some people (me) would describe as an intensive exercise regime, and was unable to walk properly for the following week.

Getting out of bed required enormous willpower, walking down stairs was a precarious and daunting challenge, and bending to pick something up off the ground was out of the question.

I learnt my lesson, and vowed never to exercise again.

(No, no. Just kidding! Exercise is very important. Don’t stop.)

It was a good reminder, though, of the importance of exercise recovery, both to ease the pain of sore muscles and to keep consistency to my workout routine.

So, to find out how it’s best done, I called recovery scientist and former director of the Australian Olympic Committee’s Recovery Centre, Shona Halson.

“People tend to think of recovery as ice baths and compression garments,” said Dr Halson, who is also an associate professor at the Australian Catholic University.

“But recovery is the foundational things like sleep and nutrition.

“Those are the things we should all be doing well. The other techniques … they’re more like the icing on the cake.”

Firstly, why am I so sore?

A couple of things can happen when we exercise: fatigue and soreness.

“The fitter you are and the more accustomed you are to doing a particular type of exercise, the less fatigue and soreness you’re likely to have,” Dr Halson said.

But the type of exercise matters too.

Muscle fatigue typically arises from exercise that involves “concentric contractions” (where the muscle is shortening) and no impact with the ground such as swimming and cycling.

“You can swim for hours, you can cycle for hours. And you burn fuel, but you don’t really get super sore, you get more tired,” Dr Halson said.

Muscle soreness, on the other hand, comes about after exercise that involves the lengthening of muscles.

This can break the connections between muscle fibres, causing inflammation and swelling.

“That swelling causes the soreness,” Dr Halson explained.

The microscopic damage our muscles accrue can be the result of impact with the ground, for example through running, or with another person if you play contact sport.

It also happens when we force our muscles to work harder than usual, or exercise muscle groups we don’t normally use.

“Weight training is another type of exercise typically associated with soreness,” Dr Halson said.

“You have some shortening muscle contractions, but you also usually have some lengthening contractions, and it’s those lengthening contractions that cause the soreness.”

While the fatigue most people feel from activities like cycling and swimming tends to go away quickly, soreness from damaged muscle fibres can last for a few days.

Soreness isn’t a bad sign

If it takes up to 72 hours for soreness to go away after exercise, it’s probably a sign that you have induced a fair bit of muscle damage, Dr Halson said.

While it’s not much fun at the time, making progress with your fitness usually means pushing yourself a little bit more each time, she said.

“You’re not going to keep improving if you don’t generate some soreness and fatigue. It’s part of the process.”

That being said, soreness that doesn’t go away after three to five days may be a sign you’ve pushed yourself too hard.

If you are trying to build up your exercise routine, it’s important to do it gradually, and allow your muscles to adapt and repair.

But what if I’m a regular exerciser?

Consistent exercise provides somewhat of a protective effect against muscle fatigue and soreness.

“You’re still putting stress and strain through the muscles … it’s just you adapt,” Dr Halson said.

However, people who regularly work out still encounter muscle soreness because they’re often building their strength or aerobic fitness over time.

“You’ll up your weights, or try to run a bit further or a bit faster,” she said.

“Often, if you do exercise that you haven’t done before and you exercise quite extremely, it can be really painful.”

What’s the best way to recover?

Sleep is the answer

“Sleep is the most powerful recovery strategy that you have,” according to Dr Halson.

It’s well known sleep is important for brain function and memory consolidation. But, she said, it also plays a key role in restoring and repairing muscle tissue.

“Sleep is one of the most active times both from a physical and mental recovery perspective. There’s hormone release, muscle repair and restoring of the brain.”

Stay hydrated

When we exercise, our muscles initially use their stores of carbohydrates for fuel, before burning fat.

Sports drinks, which typically contain water and electrolytes for rehydration and carbohydrates (as sugars) for energy, were originally designed to replenish fluid and provide extra fuel for intense, long-lasting exercise.

But water should meet most people’s fluid requirements unless you’re a professional athlete, Dr Halson said.

“It’s important to rehydrate if you’ve lost fluid, and one of the best ways is to measure yourself pre and post-[workout], and replace 150 per cent of what you’ve lost.”

When it comes to food, Dr Halson said it was important to replenish any carbohydrates depleted during exercise, and protein — the main nutrient needed for muscle repair.

If you’re doing high intensity interval training or weight lifting, for example, you might want to focus especially on protein. If you work out is predominantly cardio-based, you should be looking at carbohydrate replacement.

“It just depends on your activity.”

Compression can work

While compression garments aren’t necessary for most people’s exercise recovery, Dr Halson said they can help reduce the perception of soreness.

“There are a couple of theories behind compression garments,” she said.

“One of the main ones is that the tightness [of the garment] basically compresses the superficial veins close to the skin, particularly in the legs, and that forces the blood to flow through deeper vessels.”

That increase in blood flow can help to clear “some of the waste products” in the blood, she said.

“That can be good for inflammation and swelling, which we know is what partly causes that soreness.”

Ice, ice baby

Ice baths are a popular recovery tool for athletes, and for good reason; like compression garments, water can be compressive.

“There’s hydrostatic pressure in water, so it has that similar effect on blood flow,” Dr Halson said.

But the benefits of ice baths can be achieved without actually filling up a bath tub with ice.

“As long as the water is colder than your skin temperature [about 34 degrees Celsius] … it will eventually cool you down.”

That means jumping into a cold swimming pool or the ocean after exercising can help to reduce soreness. Even a cold shower — though it won’t provide the hydrostatic pressure of a body of water — isn’t a bad place to start.

But what about the effects of freezing cold… air?

Cryotherapy is a treatment that involves exposing the body to freezing or near-freezing temperatures for several minutes, and its use has grown in recent years.

“There is a little bit of science … mainly in patients with rheumatic arthritis or an inflammatory disease,” Dr Halson said.

“But what you don’t get with cryotherapy chambers … is the hydrostatic pressure of water.”

Dr Halson said the evidence for water immersion was stronger. Plus, a dip in the ocean is free.

Stretch if you feel like it

For something so many of us do either before or after exercise, there isn’t a whole lot of evidence that stretching is effective at reducing injury risk.

“A lot of athletes say that if they don’t stretch, they feel more sore the next day,” Dr Halson said.

“But in terms of scientific evidence to say we should be stretching after exercise, there’s not a huge amount.”

For those who find it beneficial, there’s no reason to stop, she said.

“Stretching can be something that might reduce soreness and stiffness, especially if you’re someone that’s doing something you’re not really accustomed to.”

Listen to your body

Sometimes, when your muscles are feeling sore or fatigued, it can be helpful to do some gentle exercise to “work through the soreness and stiffness”.

But taking periods of rest is also important.

“If you look at elite athletes, even they would have one day a week off,” Dr Halson said.

“So, I think your average person should be looking to have at least one day [per week] of complete rest.”

The most important thing to do is listen to your body.

“If you are a bit sore, starting to get really tired, maybe not concentrating at work, or you feel like you might be getting sick, having a day off in the long run is probably better for you.”

By: Olivia Willis

Source: Muscle soreness? Body fatigue? Exercise recovery is important, and shouldn’t be overlooked – Health – ABC News

Stretching is a great way to minimize post workout soreness. Using ice packs and massaging sore muscles also can help with any sore spots. Premier Health Physical Therapist, Greg Schultz, talks more about how to minimize post-workout soreness. #Conditioning

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How To Cool Down After Exercise

We learn at school that warming up before training or playing sport is vital, but cooling down is every bit as important. We are taught from childhood that warming up is a must in preparation for any exercise. It allows us to gear our muscles up for the strain we are about to place on them and prevent injury. More importantly, it steadily increases the heart rate and circulation, which loosens joints and increases blood flow to the muscles. These all help towards an effective workout.

But cooling down is as important as warming up. It prevents dizziness, helps return the heart rate back to normal and prevents chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). Also known as “blood pooling”, CVI occurs when the blood in blood vessels expands during prolonged exercise, making it difficult for it to return to the heart from the legs.

According to many health and fitness instructors, the total cool-down period should last three to 10 minutes, or until you are ready to stop. Areas to target depend on which part of the body you trained. For example, if you have been working your legs, you will need to do lower body stretches or a slow walk. There are many helpful tutorials online.

The best way to measure whether you have cooled down effectively is purely based on common sense – if you feel your heart rate has reduced, that’s enough. If you wear a heart rate monitor, that will also tell you once your heart rate has returned to normal. There is no research to prove stretching after a session will help reduce soreness, but if you feel it helps, there is no harm in it, do so – it is down to personal preference.

Cooling down methods, including foam rollers, a sports massage or dry needling are worth investigating. If you experience any pain when stretching, stop, and consult your doctor or a physio if the pain is there the next day, and, more importantly, warm up more thoroughly next time.

By:  Callum Nicholls

Callum Nicholls is a trainer at Third Space and Barry’s Bootcamp. Interview by Joti Birdi

Source: How to cool down after exercise

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How Exercise Lowers Alzheimer’s Risk by Changing Your Brain

Senior woman on bicycle by beach

More and more studies are showing how regular exercise benefits the brain, and in particular, the aging brain. What’s less clear is how exactly exercise counters the cognitive decline that comes with aging and diseases like Alzheimer’s.

To find out, for nearly a decade, Ozioma Okonkwo, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and his colleagues have studied a unique group of middle-aged people at higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Through a series of studies, the team has been building knowledge about which biological processes seem to change with exercise.

Okonkwo’s latest findings show that improvements in aerobic fitness mitigated one of the physiological brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s: the slowing down of how neurons breakdown glucose. The research, which has not been published yet, was presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association on Aug. 9.

Okonkwo works with the 1,500 people on the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer’s Prevention (WRAP)—all of whom are cognitively normal, but have genes that put them at higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s, or have one or two parents who have been diagnosed with the disease, or both. In the latest study, Okonkwo recruited 23 people from the WRAP population who were not physically active. Eleven were asked to participate in an exercise regimen to improve their aerobic fitness for six months, and 12 served as the control.

All had their brains scanned to track Alzheimer’s-related brain changes including differences in how neurons metabolized glucose, since in people with Alzheimer’s glucose breakdown slows. At the end of the study period, the group that exercised more showed higher levels of glucose metabolism and performed better on cognitive-function tests compared to the controls.

“We are carrying our research full circle and beginning to demonstrate some causality,” says Okonkwo about the significance of his findings.

In their previous work, he and his team identified a series of Alzheimer’s-related biological changes that seemed to be affected by exercise by comparing, retrospectively, people who were more physically active to those who were not.

In this study, they showed that intervening with an exercise regimen could actually affect these processes. Taken together, his body of research is establishing exactly how physical activity contributes to significant changes in the biological processes that drive Alzheimer’s, and may even reduce the effect of strong risk factors such as age and genes linked to higher risk of neurodegenerative disease.

For example, in their earlier work his group confirmed that as people age, the presence of Alzheimer’s-related brain changes increases—including the buildup of amyloid, slower breakdown of glucose by brain cells, shrinking of the volume of the hippocampus (central to memory), and declines in cognitive function measured in standard recall and recognition tests.

But they found that in people who reported exercising at moderate intensity at least 150 minutes a week, as public health experts recommend, brain scans showed that these changes were significantly reduced and in some cases non-existent compared to people who were not active. “The association between age and Alzheimer’s brain changes was blunted,” says Okonkwo, “Even if [Alzheimer’s] got worse, it didn’t get worse at the same speed or rate among those who are physically active as in those who are inactive.”

In another previous study, they found the benefits of exercise in controlling Alzheimer’s processes even among those with genetic predisposition for the disease. When they divided the participants by fitness levels, based on a treadmill test and their ability to efficiently take in oxygen, they found that being fit nearly negated the effect of the deleterious gene ApoE4. “It’s a remarkable finding because it’s not something that was predicted,” says Okonkwo.

In yet another previous study, Okonkwo and his team also found that people with higher aerobic fitness showed lower amounts of white matter hyperintensities, brain changes that are signs of neuron degeneration and show up as brighter spots on MRI images (hence the name). White matter hyperintensities tend to increase in the brain with age, and are more common in people with dementia or cognitive impairment.

They form as neurons degrade and the myelin that surrounds their long-reaching arms—which helps nerves communicate with each other effectively—starts to deteriorate. In people with dementia, that process happens faster than normal, leading to an increase in white matter hyperintensities. Okonwko found that people who were more aerobically fit showed lower amounts of these hyperintensities than people who were less fit.

Given the encouraging results from his latest study of 23 people that showed intervening with exercise can change some of the Alzheimer’s-related brain changes of the disease, he plans to expand his small study to confirm the positive effect that exercise and better fitness can have in slowing the signs of Alzheimer’s. Already, his work has inspired a study launched earlier this year and funded by the National Institutes of Health that includes brain scans to track how physical activity affects biological factors like amyloid and glucose in people at higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

The cumulative results show that “there may be certain things we are born with, and certain things that we can’t change ]when it comes to Alzheimer’s risk], but a behavior like physical exercise might help us to modify that,” says Heather Snyder, vice president of medical and scientific relations at the Alzheimer’s Association.

By Alice Park

Source: How Exercise Lowers Alzheimer’s Risk by Changing Your Brain | Time

Skipping Is The Best Exercise You Can Do To Become A Better Runner – Laura Hill

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Most running training plans include cross-training sessions to increase aerobic fitness and strengthen muscles. Cross-training helps athletes run faster by increasing fitness, power and efficiency, and it’s also credited with reducing injuries and accelerating injury rehabilitation.

But if you want to really get your blood pumping and your muscles firing, try skipping.

According to the International Sports Conditioning Association, skipping can improve your speed, agility, power, endurance, balance and coordination, all of which are must-haves for running. Skipping works your calves, glutes and quads as well as your shoulders, chest, back and triceps from turning the rope.

Moving meditation

Personal trainer and presenter Lauren Vickers calls running her meditation in motion.

“I try to incorporate running into most of my workouts,” she says.

“My knees have endured many years of high heels, so I can’t run as far as I used to, but I love incorporating some short cardio burners in my outdoor training one to two times a week, with sprints and shuttle runs in between sets.”

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Vickers is a big fan of skipping as a cross-training exercise for runners and anyone wanting a physical challenge.

“Skipping seems like a simple exercise, but it can quickly become extremely challenging,” says Vickers.

“While skipping is gentle on the body, it’s high in intensity. You can really tire yourself out skipping, and consistent skipping will help to improve your strength, endurance and coordination.”

Never skip it

In fact, an Arizona University study found that a 10-minute daily program of skipping is as good as a 30-minute daily program of jogging for improvement of cardiovascular efficiency.

Other research has shown that skipping can not only reduce tension but also raise energy levels. Subjects taking part in a study at Illinois University were monitored while skipping during a 60-minute workout, five-days a week, over ten-weeks. The results included greater leg and knee strength, an increase in calf size, better jumping ability, and faster running speed. Subjects also became more agile and flexible, and their hearts became stronger.

All-round exercises

Vickers loves skipping as a form of cross-training because it can be done anywhere. Vickers loves skipping as a form of cross-training because it can be done anywhere. Her own personal preference of rope is Unit Nine’s sweat plus pack.

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“[It] includes a skipping rope, resistance bands, trigger ball and towel – making it the perfect on-the-go training kit to help me perform a skipping workout at home, the gym, work or at a hotel.”

Vickers says skipping helps runners get used to planting their feet directly underneath their body, and helps to reduce the length of time their feet touch the ground with each step.

“Skipping is a low-impact, effective way to build your running endurance and strengthen the muscles that you use while running without your joints bearing too much load. It also helps to build calf, ankle and foot strength,” adds Vickers.

Do it right

Like any other exercise, runners should warm-up for a skipping workout by getting the glutes and abdominal muscles firing. Give these three exercises a go:

Slide a short resistance band around your ankles and perform 20 crab walks forward and 20 backwards.

Place the resistance band above your knees, lie on your back with knees bent and perform 10 glute bridges.

Using a long resistance band, hold the band at tension with your arms shoulder width apart straight out in front of you. Brace your core and keeping the tension, move the band in halo motions clockwise first, then anti-clockwise for 10 repetitions in each direction.

Once warm, hop to these short skipping workouts:

Workout 1

Warm up for two minutes at an easy skipping pace, and then progress to five sets of interval skipping:

  • One minute easy pace
  • 30 seconds sprint pace
  • One minute side to side skipping
  • 30 seconds high knees skipping

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Workout 2

Warm up for two minutes at an easy skipping pace, and then progress to eight rounds of tabata skipping:

  • 20 seconds sprint pace
  • 10 seconds rest
  • Rest for one minute and repeat the sequence one more time.

The goal of one day completing an ultra-marathon inspires running fanatic Laura Hill to clock up the kilometres each week. With a day job in the corporate world, Laura loves nothing more than lacing up her runners and hitting the pavement to clear her mind and challenge her body.

 

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